The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

The following interesting pioneer reminiscences was furnished me by Joshua Baker, who was one of the early residents of Washington County, Ark. which he told in this way.

My father ______ Baker said that Fayetteville, Arkansas in 1837 was a very small village but was an important trading point for the Indians and white settlers. The United States arsenal was kept there at that time. Among the earliest occupants of the village was a man of the name of Brunarige, Steven K. Stone and an old man of the name of Sutton father of Jim and Seneca Sutton who were afterward prominent merchants there. Two physicians of the name of Pollard and Dean were also early residents there. "I remember" said Mr. Baker, "when the town contained only a few log houses and religious matters began to take a little shape. A few Presbyterians formed a small church class. There was no church organization of any kind there but finally a few of the men and women that belonged to the class become interested in having a church house built and they bought lumber that had been sawed with a whip saw by old Jimmie Claridy and his son Wash in the White River hills east of the village, and built a small house of worship and they made up money and bought a small bell and belfrey and hung it up for use and they invited Andy Buckhanon to preach and he carried on a series of meetings in this house until a small church organization was formed. But as a rule the people were so desperately wicked that religious matters progressed very slow. All the preaching and exhortations that Buckhanon and others could do seem to have but little effect in civilizing the wickedness existing among the settlers. This went on until one day in 1843 when a violent thunder storm visited Washington County and Fayetteville in particular. At the time the thunder cloud was forming a number of gamblers and others were in Jim Suttons Store and 5 men were playing cards on a table which stood near the center post in the store building. There was a black smith shop which stood a short distance from Mr. Suttons store house where a lot of the men who had come in from the country that day took shelter when the rain began falling. 5 of the men began to play marbles and bet on the games and used awful wicked language while they were playing. The same kind of words was carried on in Suttons Store when a blinding flash of lightning which was instantly followed by a crashing peal of thunder occurred in Suttons Store and tore the center post into splinters and killed two of the gamblers dead without injuring anyone else in the store. Jim Sutton was standing behind the counter opposite the table around which the gamblers were sitting and only a few feet from it but strange to say the electrical bolt did not shock him. Before the news of the disaster had time to get out of the store building a deafening report of thunder terrified the survivors in Suttons Store again. A ball of electricity had darted down from the black mass of angry looking clouds and struck the roof of the black smith shop and penetrated through the rough clabboards and reached the block of wood the anvil set on and killed three men dead: the horn of the anvil was found imbedded in the breast of one of the dead men. The explosion had knocked the anvil off against the man. Beside the dead in the shop two more men were severely shocked. These two managed to crawl out of the shop into the rain where they partially recovered sufficiently to get further away, and one of them made all the exertions in his power to reach a cellar which he crawled into and was found in it on the following day in a delirious condition. The other man was discovered in another part of the village where he had concealed himself. It seemed as though both of these men had made an effort to hide themselves from the wrath of God. The excitement following the death of the 5 men was remarkable and it had the effect to break up the gambling dens for a while at least and people were not quite so wicked as they were before."

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